For a moment, we could get along

Westerners work together when it counts

  • Christie Aschwanden

 

My husband and I were driving home from cross-country skiing on western Colorado's Grand Mesa when the SUV in front of us slid off the road and sank into bumper-high snow. We pulled over and stopped, but quickly realized that there was nothing we could do to help. No amount of pushing was going to get the woman's SUV out of that deep snow, and our little Honda was too small to tow it out.

Just as we were about to drive down the road in search of cell phone range so we could call for a tow truck, another SUV came up the road. The driver quickly hit his brakes and pulled a U-turn. The man who emerged from the vehicle in a parka and work clothes was maybe 60 years old, with a face whose lines suggested age, but also good humor and kindness.

"That's some real trouble that you've got there," he told the driver, a middle-aged woman whose preteen son sat restlessly at shotgun. We exchanged fewer than a dozen words when the man pulled out a tow rope and hitched it to the woman's bumper. Then he got in his SUV and backed it closer so he could connect the rope to his hitch and yank her out.

That's when I saw his bumper stickers. "100% ANTI-OBAMA," read one. Another sticker displayed the name "Barack Obama" with one of those little-boy cartoon characters pissing on the letters. I felt myself growing hot with anger.

The man got back in his vehicle and slowly pulled forward. His tow rope began to stretch, but the stuck SUV wasn't moving. My husband and I gave him a look -- this was hopeless. But the man kept moving his vehicle forward, the tension in the rope growing visibly tighter until one of the loops snapped. That's it, I thought, she's not going anywhere, but just then the man hit the gas in one final blast and the woman's SUV barreled forward onto the road, free at last. We all thanked each other, smiling.

Our country is needlessly fractured, and during this encounter it hit me that I'm part of the problem. If I'd encountered this guy on the road, I would have thought, "What a jerk." The mere sight of his bumper stickers would have given me license to turn this generous man into a nameless, faceless "other." But during our brief encounter, he was nothing but altruistic and generous. Up close, I felt his humanity and in that moment of shared purpose, our commonalities felt bigger than our differences. And so I made a choice -- to put aside ideology and allow myself to experience the kindness of this fellow human being.

My interaction with this stranger was utterly unremarkable. Across America, and especially in the rural West, ordinary people with differing views manage to work together for common goals every day. It's a shame then that we allow political pundits and fear mongers to divvy us up into us versus them.

I will probably never agree with this man's politics, but I found much to admire about him as an individual. I still think his bumper stickers were crude and disrespectful, and it pains me to see such vitriol aimed at a president I support and admire. But I also know for a few minutes on that cold winter afternoon, an anonymous right-winger and this bleeding heart liberal put differences aside to help a stranger.

Christie Aschwanden is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). She is a freelance writer in Cedaredge, Colorado.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at [email protected].

High Country News Classifieds
  • WATER POLICY ANALYST WITH WRA (BOULDER)
    Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates seeks a passionate Water Policy Analyst with knowledge of western water issues to join our Healthy Rivers Team to strengthen...
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST
    9+ acre inholding. Passive solar strawbale off the grid and next to the Continental Divide Trail in ponderosa pine/doug fir forest at 7400.
  • HIRING BEARS EARS EDUCATION CENTER DIRECTOR
    Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring an Education Center Director to oversee the operation of the Bears Ears Education Center....
  • PROGRAM MANAGER, SUSTAINING FLOWS
    Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • PROGRAM ASSOCIATE - VERDE RIVER EXCHANGE
    Verde River Exchange - Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • CODE COMPLIANCE OFFICER
    Teton County Planning & Building is hiring! Our ideal candidate is a team-player, a problem-solver, pays attention to detail, and can clearly communicate technical material...
  • ARCHITECTURE DRAFTSPERSON/PROJECT MANAGER
    Studio Architects is seeking a full time Architectural drafts-person/project manager with1-3 years of experience to join our firm. At Studio Architects our mission is to...
  • ASSISTANT MANAGER/TRAINEE, COLORADO RANCH
    needed for 16,000+ acre conservation property in south central Colorado. Qualified candidate would have experience working on a ranch or wilderness property, general forestry/fire management...
  • FARM HAND &/OR NANNY IN ESCALANTE
    Nanny for 18-mnth-old. Yearly salary, vacation, health insurance. Spanish/other foreign-language native spkr prefrrd.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Washington Association of Land Trusts seeks an ED to build on WALTs significant success & to lead the association to new levels of achievement. See...
  • BEAUTIFUL CUSTOM STRAWBALE HOME IN WESTERN COLORADO!
    Secluded, energy efficient Southwestern home on 40 wooded acres. Broker - Rand Porter - United Country Real Colorado Properties. 970-261-1248, $425K
  • FORMER RETREAT CENTER/CONSERVATION PROPERTY FOR SALE
    57 acres in Skull Valley, AZ, 17 miles from Prescott, year-round creek, swimming holes, secluded canyon, hiking/meditation trails, oaks, pines, garden, greenhouse. House, office building,...
  • ARIZONA PUBLIC LANDS ORGANIZER
    Title: Public Lands Organizer About the Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) The AWF is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and assisting individuals and organizations...
  • HISTORIC RANCH HOME W/ 20 ACRES
    Historic 1893 Ranch Headquarters. 4 Bdrm, 3.5 Ba, 4000 ft2. Remodeled 2002. Includes 2 studio apts, stables, arena, workshop, 5 RV hookups. Chirachua & Peloncillo...
  • VICE PRESIDENT OF RETAIL OPERATIONS
    The Vice President of Retail Operations will provide overall leadership and accountability for purchasing, product development, merchandising planning, visual merchandising, retail operational excellence, oversight and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners seeks an experienced fundraiser with excellent communication and organizational skills.
  • MS ACCESS DATABASE PROGRAMER
    Looking for an access programmer. Contract position. Send resume with references and rates to: [email protected] www.prospace.biz
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    position in Phoenix with the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy.
  • ROADS END CABIN NEAR YELLOWSTONE
    Vaulted ceilings, two fireplaces, two bedrooms, loft, jetted tub, wifi. Forest, mountain views. Wildlife. [email protected]
  • ACCOUNTING CLERK
    Our director is seeking to employ the services of an Accounting Clerk to assist with various accounting and administrative tasks. This is a great opportunity...